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Belgian College Adopts Microsoft Office 365 for Ed

A career college with three locations in Brussels, Belgium has gone public with its deployment of Microsoft's Office 365 for Education. The Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (EPHEC) or "Practical School of Higher Commercial Studies" adopted the cloud-based service to modernize its communications infrastructure.

The baseline version of Office 365 for Education is free for academic institutions. The free edition includes email, calendar, and contacts, instant messaging, voice and video chat, online conferencing with desktop sharing, and web-based access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files. An edition that is $2.50 per user per month for students and $4.50 for faculty and staff builds on those applications by adding Office Professional Plus 2010, unlimited email storage, and other features. A third edition, which is $3 per month per student and $6 for faculty and staff adds enterprise voice capabilities for unified communications.

The Brussels-based school recognized that to serve its 3,000 students, it needed to help its students to work "from anywhere, anytime, even in the middle of the night," according to Director Jean-Guillaume Lahaye. The administration sought the guidance of faculty member Vincent Fievez, a lecturer in the IT department who also worked for ICT7, a Microsoft-focused IT consulting firm in Brussels.

The recommendation to adopt Office 365 for Education came with the potential of freeing up the schedules for three members of the IT staff who spent a disproportionate amount of their time supporting the aging email infrastructure. The move to the free Microsoft service saved the school about 7,000 Euros a month compared to the expense of running the legacy email system, according to a statement from Microsoft.

"Saving money each month is great, but that was not the primary motive for moving to Office 365 for education. The primary reason was to adapt to a changing world," Fievez said. "We needed to provide an infrastructure that would help prepare our students for the world outside EPHEC. We needed to have them using online services, shared calendars, online collaboration tools, and more."

The school will also try offering some online classes in 2013, using Office 365 to deliver lectures and discussions. The institution will add a paid SharePoint Online option for sharing of course materials.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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